The Daily Yonder's coverage of rural economic issues, including workforce development and the future of work in rural America, is supported in part by Microsoft.
Only three out of 10 counties in the country had as many jobs this July as in July 2019, before anyone had heard of Covid-19.
Rural and urban America are about the same on this measure. Only 30.8% of urban counties and 28.1% of rural counties have as many jobs now as they did two years ago.
Things look better, however, when the employment figures from this July are compared to this time last year, after Covid-19 had hit. Only 18.5% of rural counties and just 2% of urban counties have fewer jobs this July than in July 2020.
The map above shows job losses and gains from July 2019 to July of this year. Dark red counties are rural areas that lost jobs. Light blue counties are rural job gainers. Orange areas are urban counties that have not regained the jobs they had in July 2019. Dark blue counties are urban areas that have more jobs now than two years ago.
Hover over individual counties to see a comparison of jobs gained or lost from July 2020 to July 2021. It is a remarkably different picture.
The two maps are pictures of exceptions. When July 2019 is compared to July 2021, most of the country has lost jobs. The exceptions stand out. The employment engines of Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami and Phoenix churned out jobs. In rural areas, many counties in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, the Northwest and the Mountain West beat the odds and added jobs.
In the map comparing July 2020 to July of this year, the exceptions were the places that didn’t gain jobs: oil and gas producing areas of Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana; Minnesota; and parts of east and west Kentucky.
What the July jobs numbers show is that we’ve made progress since the pandemic-related jobs recession in the spring and summer of 2020. But the country has yet to gain back 4.4 million jobs it had two years ago before the pandemic struck. Overall, the country has 2.8% fewer jobs now than during the pre-Covid-19 summer of 2019.
The nation’s largest cities fare a little worse than the national average, as do rural counties. Both the counties in cities of a million or more people and rural America have job totals that are down about 3.2% from two years ago. Medium-sized metropolitan areas (ones with populations for 250,000 to 1 million) fared a bit better than the national average.
Meanwhile, however, the country overall has gained about 9.3 million jobs from July 2020 to July of this year, a 6.4% increase. Among rural counties, however, jobs have increased only about 3.5%.
Complicating the employment figures is the continuing imbalance in the nation’s labor markets. There are now 10 million job openings while 8.4 million people are looking for work, the Washington Post reports. If the country got back to pre-Covid job levels, who would fill these positions?